The other day, my friend Dina was talking about her experiences of being catcalled—street harassment is a more accurate term—while walking around the streets of New York.
This wasn’t the first time I’ve heard about the epidemic of street harassment. Many of my women friends have remarked about experiencing and dealing with this kind of harassment and how unsafe it makes them feel.
For Dina, one particular instance of harassment on the streets of New York was cemented in her memory. She was walking alone, during the day, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, when she heard a man taunt her, “Hey baby, you’re lookin’ good…”
“Don’t call me baby,” she responded.
He looked her up and down and said, “…fucking dyke.”
For the record, Dina is straight—not that it would have been okay if she weren’t.
This wasn’t the first, nor will it be the last time Dina faces street harassment. She has been harassed in public places, and on a number of occasions, followed by men. Many studies
indicate that almost 100 percent of women will face some sort of street harassment at one point in their lives.
Most men don’t even realize street harassment exists as a very real, serious problem. Yet, many women see this kind of harassment as part of daily life. For the few men who are aware of it, they assume the extent of street harassment is something akin to harmless, or at worst, annoying flirting, which still problematic if that attention is unwelcome.
Read the full article at The Current Conscience
Street harassment is about one of the things that makes me lose my temper the fastest. I’ve been accused of taking it too seriously, but — I walk a straight line from my home to work. It’s three and a half blocks. I would be ridiculously easy to follow or to stalk. I think I take it exactly seriously enough.
But the bigger point, I think, is this:
Street harassment is simply one issue that plagues women in their everyday life. They are constantly barraged with discriminatory obstacles that we don’t even see as obstacles.
My passion and main concern with respect to combating sexism has been about revealing hidden forms of sexism; my fight lies in overturning the idea that women and girls are subject to
a certain biological destiny, and revealing what we think to be biological destiny as actually the problematic ways in which we condition girls and women in our society. This conditioning
creates a lens through which women see the world and approach their life—a conditioning that itself is discriminatory.
Women not only deal with discriminatory behavior on a daily basis, but they are also loaded with the baggage of their social conditioning. We must recognize that, day in and day out, every hour, every minute, women face lives that we men will rarely see and never feel.
Women are constantly reminded that they are different from us. And while we will never fully understand or feel what it’s like to deal with these issues, we also don’t make any effort to ask, we don’t inquire about their struggles. When we do hear about realities like street harassment, we dismiss the situations as just the way things are. Sometimes, as so often happens with street harassment, we diminish the impact it has on women, “Boys will be boys.”
And therein lies the problem: if and when we think of sexism, it’s about class-action lawsuits, wage fairness—the big issues. We don’t seem to pay attention to the minutiae of daily life and the discrimination that exists on an everyday level.